Luis Perdomo: Walking Towards the Light
Perdomo has been playing professionally since the age of 12 when he got his first paying gig. Getting paid was cool, and he never looked back.
The sound of music came from his home. His father was not a musician, but he played a little piano and started showing his son a few things when he was six. "He realized that I had some talent for it. But it wasn't until I was 10 years old that I seriously began taking piano lessons with a private teacher in Venezuela. Taking harmony lessons and all that stuff. With a real good teacher who is still the main jazz teacher in Caracas. His name is Gerry Weil. He's actually from Austria. He's been in Venezuela for about 55 years. I studied with him for 10 years, from 10 to 20. I came to new York when I was 22."
His father had records of Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson, Bobby Timmons. "There was a record my father used to play a lot called Modern Jazz Sextet (Verve, 1956). It's a record with [trumpeter] Dizzy Gillespie and [saxophonist] Sonny Stitt. Skeeter Best on guitar, John Lewis on piano and Percy Heath [bass]. Charlie Persip is the drummer. I lot of my father's records I tried to buy on CD once I came to New York. I still listen to them. There was a Ray Bryant record that I used to listen to a lot called All Blues (Pablo, 1978) I was very influenced by that one. Another record I used to listen to a lot is The Bobby Timmons Trio In Person; Live at the Village Vanguard (Riverside, 1961). With Ron Carter and Albert Heath. Those are records my dad was always playing."
His early gigs in Venezuela were salsa music and groove music for the dancers. "Then I played in a traditional Venezuelan music group I did that for two years also. I remember my grades started going down because I was playing music, going to sleep real late when I was 14 or something like that. When I was 15, I got my first jazz gig in a hotel in Venezuela. That only lasted for nine or 10 months. The next big break that I had was when I was 18. I became the house pianist in Caracas at this jazz club, called Juan Sebastian Bar. I did that for three-and-a-half years." He played jazz six days a week. "That was a real big break for me."
Juan Sebastian Bar was a place where the better jazz musicians would hang. When American musicians were touring, they'd stop there. "I met Pharoah Sanders, David Kikoski, James Genus. Since then I've been friends with them. There was a trio from Brazil, called the Zimbo Trio. It was a fantastic trio that played traditional Brazilian music. They did a double bill with us. We did double bills with Chucho Valdes and his group. Gonzalo Rubalcaba. That's where I met all those guys.
Perdomo didn't get any formal institutional music education. He first came to New York to visit a friend who played trumpet. He visited a couple times. The second time, a friend told him about auditions for the Manhattan School of music that were going on. There was a friend of mine who was a trumpet player. He had family in New Jersey. He was the first one to tell me I should get a Visa and go to New York and hang out. I saved my money for a year. We went to New York. I was 19. After that, I came again, by myself. Just to hang out, buy CDs, see music, then go back to Venezuela. At that time a friend of mine who was here [New York], a musician from Venezuela, told me 'Why don't you audition for the Manhattan School of Music.' By chance, I was there during the audition period."